September 25, 2015

Friday Round Up - 25 September, 2015

This week Friday Round Up features the 22nd Noorderlicht Photofestival in Groningen, The Netherlands with a selection of exhibitions from the festival's 2015 theme, DATA RUSH.

Festival Feature:
Noorderlicht Photofestival

DATA RUSH features more than 50 internationally renowned photographers and photo media artists whose work explores the tensions of the digital space. This year for the first time Noorderlicht presents 3D installations and work by multimedia artists in collaboration with When Art Meets Science also. One of the exhibits in DATA RUSH is Doug Meneuz's Fearless Genius, documenting the turbulent early years of the technology and Internet pioneers of Silicon Valley in California. 

Talking about this year's theme curator Wim Melis says, "We have opted for a topical and at the same time challenging theme. The data traffic, which affects all aspects of our lives and the entire virtual society, is invisible to the naked eye. How do you photograph something that is barely photographable?" 

The responses to his question span the gamut of photography from documentary to conceptual art and the questions are just as diverse - gaming addiction, anti-social social media, spam, the loss of interpersonal skills, surveillance, remote warfare and the silence of thousands of voice are just a few of the narratives. It's an interesting, and erudite, collection for a complex theme. Here’s a selection of the works included in this year’s festival. 

Bas Losekoot
In Company of Strangers 

Internet access from our mobile phones is a veritable revolution. Having all possible knowledge in the world within hand’s reach at all times, however, has also changed our bodily experience and social behaviour in the city. Whilst walking on the street, we may be physically present, but mentally absent. In Hong Kong, Bas Losekoot witnessed the way in which people on the street use their phones as masks, resulting in dismal shields of indifference. Paradoxically, the smartphone thus seems to disconnect us from one another and from reality. Hong Kong is one of eight megacities in the world, which Losekoot is visiting for his work in progress, In Company of Strangers

Fernando Moleres 
Internet Gaming Addicts 

There are more Internet users in China than anywhere else – 600 million. This prosperity, however, has a dark side. Thousands of Chinese, particularly youths, are addicted to Internet gaming. They isolate themselves in their rooms or in Internet cafés, where they can sometimes play online games for days on end, with disastrous consequences for their social and family life. Some gamers have even died in front of the computer from exhaustion and lack of movement. Fernando Moleres followed addicted youths who are trying to kick the habit at a clinic run by psychiatrist Tao Ran, a colonel in the People’s Liberation Army. Many parents even allow themselves to be admitted into the clinic together with their child. 

Lisa Barnard
Whiplash Transition 

Many American soldiers spend their days in front of a screen controlling an RPA (Remotely Piloted Aircraft), which destroys military targets in a far away country and then rushing home to take their children to football training. This abrupt transition, from the brutal reality of operating a drone in a war zone back to family life, is often referred to by the soldiers as whiplash transition. The lack of separation between the theatre of war and the home contributes to the rise of work stress and burnout. In her series Whiplash Transition, Lisa Barnard examines these complex relations, using images from both the US and Pakistan.

Christopher Baker
Hello World! 

New media such as YouTube have made it possible, at an almost alarming rate, for people to express themselves. The promise of contemporary, democratic, participative media fits seamlessly with the human desire for attention. However, no new technologies have emerged that enable us to listen to all these new public speakers. The installation Hello World! by Christopher Baker shows how thousands of people are able to address a potential public of billions – alone, and from their kitchen, bedroom or other private retreat. Are they heard, or is their voice lost in a cacophony of other voices?

Catherine Balet
Strangers in the Light 

In her series Strangers in the Light, Catherine Balet examines the complicated relationship between humans and their technology. Her photographs show the new posture of the ever-reachable, contemporary human, absorbed in the white, digital light of his device. The individuals she has photographed are solely illuminated by the light on their smartphone, laptop or tablet, thus creating a 21st century chiaroscuro effect which seems to refer to classical paintings and the old masters. At the same time, it refers to the historical break with the past, brought about by modern means of communication.

Max Colson
Friendly Proposals for Highly Controlling Environments 

Many public places in Great Britain are being privatised, in the course of which surveillance is put in place as a means of control. The latest hi-tech equipment is able to respond ‘smartly’ to events in the vicinity – lampposts can record sound and switch on whenever they ‘hear’ upheaval, dustbins can follow passing smartphones and register movements in a marked out area. In his series Friendly Proposals for Highly Controlling Environments, Max Colson shows the potential of a more playful and therefore less threatening manner of surveillance.

Anita Cruz-Eberhard & David Howe
Security Blankets 

In the series Security Blankets by Anita Cruz-Eberhard and David Howe, security is a warm blanket, not only in the figurative but also in the literal sense. Their security blankets, of incredibly soft fleece, are printed with images that were found on the Internet and refer to the notion of ‘security’. The softness and warmth of the fleece, however, form a sharp contrast with the disquieting imprints on the blankets; Cruz-Eberhard and Howe thereby evoke the confusing positive and negative emotional connotations of the word ‘security’.

Anita Cruz-Eberhard
Watch the Watchers! #02 

After the attacks on 11 September 2001, Anita Cruz-Eberhard saw a rapid increase in the number of surveillance cameras in her place of residence, New York. But do all those cameras make our lives safer? Doesn’t our right to privacy disappear just as quickly as the technology emerges? Has it not transformed us into a police state? And doesn’t our obsession with cameras have just as much to do with our culture of voyeurism as it does with safety? By converting the technology that watches over us into art, Cruz-Eberhard examines the global, surveillance-saturated culture with an aesthetic dimension.
For her continuing series Watch the Watchers! #02, she created patterns using images of surveillance cameras which she pulled from shops and catalogues on the Internet.

Arantxa Gonlag
Data Diary 

Dutch-born Arantxa Gonlag went in search of the physical locations of her digital data. Her quest brought her, amongst other places, to beaches where intercontinental Internet cables reach the shores, and to the almost invisible data centres of Facebook and other Internet giants. At the same time, Gonlag endeavours to obtain an answer to her questions concerning our digital identity and the importance of privacy. Who has control over this, and how secure is that control? Her diary in text and image, Data Diary, is a tangible reflection on her search in a virtual world.

Andrew Hammerand
The New Town

In order to portray the construction of a new community, the project developer installed a camera on top of an antenna for mobile phones; the images of which were made public. It is just one example of the many non-secured devices which actively and haphazardly pump information onto the Internet. For his series The New Town, Andrew Hammerand uses images from this camera as though it were his own. Because he had full access to non-secured controls, he could point the camera himself, zoom in with it and focus. The result is a voyeuristic gaze on the village, a play with the visual language of surveillance, amateur footage and insinuation.

Hannes Hepp
Not So Alone – Lost in Chat Room 

Hannes Hepp’s photomontages portray the invisible, global, digital espionage activities of the NSA and other security forces, but also the continuous alienation and isolation of ordinary citizens in the virtual world. The portraits in the series come from public chat rooms, where the persons depicted tempt visitors with the prospect of more explicit sexual images so as to entice them to pay for ‘private time’. The viewer is therefore simultaneously a voyeur and an object of voyeurism. Just as the photographer may have been spied on by security forces whilst making the photomontages in his studio.

Simon Høgsberg
The Grocery Store Project 

On an April day in 2010, Simon Høgsberg sat by a supermarket entrance to take photographs of people approaching and walking away from him. He kept returning the following eighteen months, taking a total of around 97,000 shots. With the aid of basic facial recognition software, he was able to identify 1,100 faces. Many faces turned out to be the same – hundreds of people turned out to appear on several photographs spread out over a period of time. Høgsberg placed the photo sequences of 457 people into a matrix, providing insights into how they pass through one another’s lives. The result is a study into the way in which humanity consciously and unconsciously presents itself, and, at the same time, an artwork full of emerging and fading patterns.

Cristina de Middel
Poly Spam 

An old woman looking for someone to share out her immense fortune among charities, a girl who wants to marry you in order to fulfil the requirements to collect the large sum of money her father left her, or just the message that you’ve won a new car – everyone with an email account receives these kinds of appeals and other messages that are too good to be true. Under the guise of mercy, they appeal to our greed. In Poly Spam, Cristina de Middel creates portraits of the senders, in which she translates every detail from the emails into dramatic images of the moment in which they were sent.

The Hall of Hyperdelic Youths 

The virtual world of gamers has infinite possibilities. As though in a trance, gamers detach themselves from their vulnerable bodies and enter into a world with barely any rules. Mintio combines this virtual world with images of those who move through it. Using only the light emitting from the screens behind which the gamers take cover, Mintio captured the teenagers’ limited movements – or even the complete lack of them, because in the three to ten minutes of the shoot, they barely moved. Turned 180 degrees, through the eyes of the gamer, she subsequently captured different layers of the endless matrix of the game.

Waltraut Tänzler
Eyes on Borders 

In 2007, the world’s first public online surveillance programme was launched in Texas under the name of TBSC BlueServo Virtual Community Watch. The programme consists of a network of sensors and cameras installed along the border between Texas and Mexico. Internet users around the world can register as Virtual Texas Deputies to participate in border control. If these virtual assistant sheriffs see something suspicious, they simply send an email to the local authorities. Waltraut Tänzler uses the screenshots of the videos streamed, which were made as a virtual deputy, to protest against this dubious tactic to increase border security.

Doug Menuez
Fearless Genius: The Digital Revolution in Silicon Valley 

During a period of 15 years, Doug Menuez captured the efforts of a select group of engineers, designers, entrepreneurs and investors in Silicon Valley. He began in 1985, when Apple laid off Steve Jobs. Menuez followed his path to rehabilitation and this example gradually won him the trust of more than seventy companies and numerous investors. He witnessed how highly-gifted and fearless programmers had put everything on the line to realise their ideas – health, fortune and family. With this uncompromising approach and the technology they developed, they unleashed a digital revolution that has transformed every aspect of our lives. But the price was high: marriages broke down, several programmers went insane, and millions of dollars were lost. Behind this harsh reality, Menuez discovered the playful, primary need to invent tools that provided the progress of humanity with a new momentum. Uncontrollable, hungry and wild – which ultimately makes the digital revolution into something human. In 1999, Menuez decided to bring the project to a close; greed and shares had pushed aside the idealism, the Internet bubble was about to burst. Fearless Genius is both a document of historical interest and an example with which Menuez wants to inspire a new generation.

Nooderlicht Photofestival 2015
Until 11 October
Old Sugar Factory